Planting stall in tent

One thing we are really proud about this year is the sheer volume of free activities for children taking place at this year’s Essex Book Festival. Especially given the squeeze on family purses.

Whether it’s making your own giant jelly fish out of a plastic bottles and bags (bring you own if you can) or joining in our quest to plant 1000 sunflowers in recycled festival brochures and coffee cups in solidarity with the Ukraine and also wild bees, their main pollinator, at our Greenwood Words Day at Burnham-on-Crouch on 2nd June.

Helping children’s author Ray Star and digital artist Lily Hunter Green Solve the World’s Worst Crime: Climate Change in our special Earthlings Tent which forms part of our Criminally Good Day at High House Production Park on 11th June.

Or simply sitting back and enjoying Theatre Lark’s free family performance of What! A Load of Rubbish at Cressing Temple Barns located in one of the giant oak barns that are playing host to our Midsummer Madness day on 25th June.

The icing on the eco-cake though has to be launching the festival into Space with the Essex Steamettes, a group of young female coders, at Hylands House on 19th June. Quite how they will be doing it, and why, will be revealed on the day!

All of these activities are free. Some of them are drop-in, others require tickets in advance.

To see all of our free events go to our Events List and search for the category FREE

Who Are We Now? Firstsite, 4th June
Platinum Meditations

When we realised that this year’s Essex Book Festival was going to coincide with the Queen’s Jubilee Weekend celebrations, the challenge was to come up with something a bit different for Colchester, given that it’s one of the UK’s oldest recorded towns stretching back to Boudica and beyond.

Something that would give us an opportunity to explore where and who we are now. After all, there have been some pretty monumental changes since the Queen came to the throne in 1952.

We are thrilled to be welcoming Jason Cowley, Essex-born award-winning journalist/writer and Editor-in-Chief of The New Statesman to talk about his latest book Who Are We Now? Stories of Modern England. Jason gives an account of an England poised on the brink of enormous change.

Spanning the years since the election of Tony Blair’s New Labour government to the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, the book investigates how England has changed and how those changes have affected us.

Cowley weaves together the seemingly disparate stories of the Chinese cockle-pickers who drowned in Morecambe Bay, the East End Imam who was tested during a summer of terror, the pensioner who campaigned against the closure of her GP’s surgery and Gareth Southgate’s transformation of English football culture. And in doing so, Cowley shows the common threads that unite them, whether it is attitudes to class, nation, identity, belonging, immigration, or religion.

‘I can’t tell you how refreshing it is in these polarised times to read a book on politics that doesn’t have an axe to grind . . . an essential read.’

The Sunday Times

Running alongside Jason’s event we are equally delighted to be hosting the first of two workshops led by Cultural Historian/Mythographer/Novelist Marina Warner, Poet/Writer Philip Terry and Songwriter/Writer Adrian May to create our own A Living Almanac.

Most people are familiar with Whittaker’s Almanack and Wisden Almanack. So what is A Living Alamanac?

Almanacs have provided knowledge and foreknowledge of important dates, beliefs, stories portents and charms for centuries – calendars that offer an alternative form of time-keeping.

Our A Living Almanac will use words, images, local myths, historic events, songs, memories and the imagination to create and grow a collective community almanac build capturing the essence of now as we celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

See our Events List for details of these and all of the events in this year’s Essex Book Festival